“Houston, we have a Problem”
On 19 June 2019, Chennai city officials declared the city’s “Day Zero”, meaning that there was almost no water left for public consumption. The city had historically relied on the annual monsoon rains to replenish its water reservoir supply, but extreme drought-induced by three years of failed monsoon rains, further exacerbated by government mismanagement brought the city to a standstill.
Globally, 844 million people lack access to clean water, which pushes them into a vicious cycle of poverty for generations. While India has made significant improvements to both the availability and quality of municipal drinking water systems, its ever-growing population has begun to stress planned water resources.
Although many governments and non-governmental organisations are trying to solve the water crisis in their own ways, Arion Techsol, a startup incubated at GUSEC is tackling the problem through innovation. Using their IoT (Internet of Things) technology, the startup works to reduce non-revenue water losses for urban local bodies by providing authentic data of the amount of water sourced, filtered and stored in water tanks.
Devan Chheda, founder of Arion Techsol started out as a customs clearing and freight forwarding agent but soon realised that the Internet of Things, not a buzzword in India at the time, was going to be one of the next big things in the coming time. Initially starting out in the petroleum industry, Devan & his co-founder expanded their operations in the water supply management sector after conducting successful trials for the same in Bhavnagar, Surat and Amreli.
Water supply management is an area that hasn’t been explored deeply, because of which there are no clear statistics of water lost due to overflowing. Devan, however, was never a stranger to exploring. “As early as 1984-85, I liked to travel to new places in the city alone, sometimes to buy books or sometimes just to see what was out there.” He credits his family for giving him the push he needed to venture into the startup business. “Entrepreneurship runs in my family, and it always inspired me to go out and explore.” At just 16, he became a stockbroking sub-broker and began contacting investors with odd lots to help people attain tradeable lots. Coupled with his co-founder’s technical expertise, Arion Techsol rose to newer innovative heights.
Accounting for Lost Water
“A 2019 NITI Aayog Report pointed out that due to the lack of authenticity and reliability of data received from urban local bodies, it gets unfathomably difficult to account for the water supplied, making water supply management even more challenging,” Devan says. Arion’s technology provides a clear picture of the amount of water consumed that helps urban municipalities understand the amount of water to be purchased, solving the problem of surplus or insufficient water in the peak seasons. The regulation of water supply through IoT can help track the use of water and cut down the leakages which happen because of no accountability. Arion’s software monitors the usage and collects data on the water every hour.
Devan says that for a startup in its initial stages, being a part of a startup ecosystem can make all the difference. Speaking of his own experience, he says, “ The initial stage of a startup is fragile. You need all the aid and assistance you can gather. Being incubated at GUSEC, we got all the support we needed, and more. All the experts we got to interact with through GUSEC gave us unmatched insights into our startup businesses throughout the pandemic. Not just that, interacting with other innovators brings a lot of dynamism to your venture, which cannot happen if you’re on your own”.
When asked about the crucial qualities that every entrepreneur must have, Devan says, “People should know that there is no shame attached to failing. I wish we could implement this belief as early as when children are in schools. We need to teach them to not look at failure as opposed to success, but as a part of it.” He advises all those venturing to be entrepreneurs to “fail fast, accept criticism, and encapsulate that feedback into your work. But don’t stop moving”.
Speaking about the water crisis, Devan remarks, “A lot needs to be done to optimise water management. Especially in India, which consists of 18% of the world’s population and just 4% of water resources.” He believes that the capturing of water supply data shall increase the accountability of consumers at the front end but also government officials at the back end of operations.
More times than often, we get so caught up in the tangle of our lives that we forget about holding ourselves accountable for our actions. Solutions like Arion that bring accountability are a step in the right direction. It is past time we begin to think about our actions impacting the future. No one could have said it better than Edward O. Wilson – “One Planet, One Experiment”.